Science and Our Food Supply Careers: Jorge A. Hernandez, RS
"Find an area that instills a passion within you and dive into it."
Senior Director of the Department of Science and Regulatory Relations
National Restaurant Association Education Foundation
Fields of Expertise:
Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry
Universite de la Sorbonne
Degree in Languages/Field of Study: French
Center for Medical and Microbiological Sciences
Mexico City, Mexico
Clinical Laboratory Technology Degree in Medical Sciences
(while in high school)
Maintenance Worker in Hospital
(while in high school)
Environmental Health Inspector
Winnebago County Health Department
Food Safety Program Coordinator
Illinois Department of Public Health
If I hadn't chosen my present career, I would have become . . . a manager/director at a laboratory.
Q: What do you do in your current job?
A: I provide technical expertise on food safety, workplace safety, risk and liability, and public health issues to the restaurant and foodservice industry. I also contribute to the development of the National Restaurant Association education and training materials and seek partnerships among industry, academia, and regulatory groups to promote food safety training and education.
Q: What led you to your career?
A: After I graduated college, I worked in the environmental health field and learned a lot about foodborne illness. It causes millions of deaths worldwide, especially among children and the elderly. In fact, every year, more than 5,000 deaths due to foodborne illness occur in the United States. But, I also learned that foodborne illness is 100 percent preventable if you know how to handle food safely. So, I endeavored to benefit the public by making them aware of safe food handling practices through educational resources.
Q: Was there a person who inspired you?
A: Two people inspired me. Louis Pasteur, the famous scientist, is the first. When I was 9 years old, I read a children's book about him. It amazed me how one person could have a great impact on the whole world and save millions of lives. Pasteur is known for developing the rabies vaccine and the pasteurization process that makes food safe.
The second person who inspired me was Dr. Marjorie Slavens, my literature professor at Rockford College. She taught me that there are no impossibilities in life, and she was living proof of this because she was blind and a very successful professor. She taught me how important it is to love what you do, to always do your best, and to approach life with a sense of humor.
Q: What twists and turns has your career taken to get you where you are today?
A: When I came to the United States, I was in high school, and I didn't speak a word of English. This became a barrier when I began to look for work. The restaurant industry welcomed and hired me. I started out working as a busboy and worked my way up in the industry. Eventually, I became fluent in English and went on to college. For me, this whole experience was the embodiment of the American Dream. You work hard, and you'll succeed!
Q: What advice would you give to students who are interested in pursuing a career in science?
A: Find an area that instills a passion within you and dive into it. But, don't discount the arts, especially language arts (reading and writing). They will provide you with the tools to find success in your career.